Brazil is scheduled to have a general election this October, and this article about the current frontrunner in the Brazilian presidential elections, a man named Jair Bolsonaro, describes him as “far-right” and given to racist and misogynistic utterances:

Loathed by much of Brazil for his insults against women and gays, his alleged racism and crude exhortations for “bandits” to be shot down, Bolsonaro has surprised many by becoming a frontrunner.

The only politician currently more popular is the leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leader who also divides Brazilians — only in the other direction.

Lula would easily win the election, according to polls, but he is in prison for corruption and very unlikely to be allowed on the ballot.

That was written before word came down that, yes indeed, Lula has been barred by the court from running in the election because of his corruption conviction.

Not having my finger on the pulse of Brazilian politics, I had not heard of Bolsonaro until recently. But in general I have become somewhat suspicious of accusations like the ones leveled against him by the left and/or the international press. They may indeed be completely true, but it’s hard to know for certain without actually hearing him and seeing him (and understanding Portuguese, too).

Short of that, I’ll just say that some of Bolsonaro’s utterances sound truly awful—for example, he told a newspaper that one congresswomen was “not worth raping” because “she is very ugly”. And he’s also recently said this, which sounds bad as well:

“This kind of people (criminals), you cannot treat them as if they were normal human beings, OK? We can’t let policemen keep dying at the hands of those guys,” Bolsonaro said on TV Globo’s main nightly news program. “If he kills 10, 15 or 20 with 10 or 30 bullets each, he needs to get a medal and not be prosecuted.”

Again, however, I’d like to see the full quote, embedded in context, because it’s not clear whether Bolsonaro is really advocating open season on anyone in the street suspected of being a killer, or whether he’s just talking about police behavior when someone is already firing at them. As this article acknowledges, “Human rights groups say that police killings are a regular occurrence.”

Other statements of Bolsonaro’s seem to be more akin to common sense, such as the idea that people should be allowed to defend themselves against crime:

But with Brazilians desperate to ditch the status quo after years of recession, rampant corruption and ever-growing violent crime, his provocative positions make him stand out.

In Madureira, which is surrounded by sometimes almost lawless favelas and where residents live with the constant danger of gunfire, Bolsonaro’s pitch for looser gun control to allow self-defense met with particular approval.

“Guns don’t feed violence, just as flowers don’t bring peace,” Bolsonaro said, responding to critics who say that flooding society with even more guns will only increase the bloodshed.

When the left has been in control for years and it has led to “recession, rampant corruption and ever-growing violent crime,” why wouldn’t a significant number of people want a change? And why wouldn’t they incline towards someone who promises to allow them to defend themselves against a growing number of criminals?

“Elites” are fond of telling people what they can and cannot do, but elites are, for the most part, protected against the disturbing phenomena they have created in a way that the regular populace is not. So why wouldn’t a somewhat Trump-like figure have mass appeal? And why would people heed the warnings of their “betters,” who have not seen fit to offer them any other way to deal with these myriad problems except to suck it up, grin, and bear it?

It is quite obvious that whatever it was that led to Trump’s appeal in this country, there are similar (although of course not exactly the same) influences leading to the rise of similar (although of course not exactly the same) politicians in different countries. And the powers-that-be in those countries seem similarly surprised at the entire phenomenon.

[Featured image via Twitter]

[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]